Dawn breaks. It is Tuesday March 28th, 1995, a seemingly obscure day likely beginning similar the many before it in New York City. Springtime is finally here after one of it's coldest winters (personally). 75 Rockefeller Plaza is the home to Warner Music and it's subsidiary Elektra records.
The day itself had some interesting numerology attached to it, 55 and 45 being the most prominent: 3+29+1+9+9+5 equals 55 while 3+28+9+5 gives us 45.
This particular morning had to have a distinctive buzz in the air as the legacy label once known for their catalogues of The Doors, The Stooges, Patrice Rushen and Anita Baker now has arrived to the debut of the popular wild card of the Wu, Ason Unique, better known as the Ol' Dirty Bastard.
The nine, sometimes ten plus member collective had just released their highly lauded debut "Enter The 36 Chambers" 17 months prior, which took off like a rocket ship after many failures in seeking success with their earliest offerings. Their unique structure allowed for all the members to seek out solo deals with other labels that was not related to Loud/RCA or RZA's imprint Razor Sharp records. Dirty from the very beginning is established from the other eight members to be a lyricist in his own right (basically however, whenever he damn felt like defining and executing it) and not unlike Flavor Flav to Chuck D, providing a balance in tone to an otherwise serious group.
RZA (who is Dirty's cousin, as well as Allah Justice aka the GZA aka the Genius. The familial trio formed the All in Together Now crew, which was Wu-Tang 1.0 about a year or so before the remainder of the group would join up) at this time handles the heavy load that is the Wu's production, this release being the third in their collective discography and features the first Wu track not produced by Prince Rakeem.
"Brooklyn Zoo" is selected as the introductory single, produced by fellow Brooklynite and long time Wu affiliate True Master. True Master described the track coming about knowing he'd create this specifically for Dirty. There may have been confusion on RZA's involvement in the songs creation over the years. True Master credits RZA for aiding him in the process of learning how to create beats, used the same machine RZA was using at the time (an Ensoniq EPS-16+ sampler) but this was a solo mission.
The recording itself is Dirty at his best, showcasing how it would be virtually impossible to trace a Father figure back to this drunken master style, hence the title of Ol' Dirty Bastard in the first place. A single verse over 40 bars, a one man army (Ason...a sun, get it??!?) keeps planets in orbit, attacking wack hosts, all before the first sign of a hook even appears. From the moment that first piano notes comes in, you are instantly lured into Charlotte's web.
"Shimmy Shimmy Ya" is the second single for the record and arguably his most popular. Both Shimmy and Zoo have been frequently sampled in the years following, showing how impactful the trademarked drunken master style of his was utilized in various forms afterwards. Arguably in a wider range than any of the other members of the Clan. The intro samples The Emotions' "I Like It"
"Cutting Headz" always sounded distinctly different from the remainder of the tracks and couldn't place how or why at first. Turns out this dates back to their pre-36 Chambers demos and sounds like it could have been recorded around the same time or inspired "Clan In Da Front" off 36 Chambers. The two cousins go back and forth about taking necks of their rivals over RZA's now established Shaolin style production.
"Shimmy Shimmy Ya", the second single that would release on May 2nd.
Barely a half mile southwest to 7th avenue & 33rd street later on this very day, the stage is set for which Michael Jordan is bringing his comeback and theatrics to the world's most famous arena in the fifth game back from an 18 month retirement. A two worded fax, ten days and five games later, it seemed like the world stood still to see how MJ would react against a team who he always seemed to get the better of.
MJ's fax to the world, March 18th.
This particular moment in the season, their rival Knicks had a far better team and their sights set on another deep run through the playoffs. Another shot at ending the twenty plus year drought without hoisting up the chip and no pesky assassin wearing no. 23 in the way again this year...or so they thought until about early March. Meanwhile the Bulls had come off a second round exit to New York the previous spring after knocking the Knicks out in each of the three years prior to that on the road to their first three peat. They were barely playing .500 when Jordan came back.
MJ returning to the court, now with the number 45 on his back instead of the distinguished 23 represented a colossal blockage to those Knicks June goals, no matter how much the Bulls had slipped downwards after Jordan's initial retirement announcement in October of '93 (interestingly enough, it's just a few weeks shy of the Wu's debut. Interesting how these storylines are sometimes running concurrent with each other).
Nope, this image is not inverted. He hooks it lefty too.
I remember early in the month, there was a class trip to the Garden the day or so before the squads were to meet on the 2nd. The following morning as it was part of my school routine in the fifth grade: procure a NY Daily News and start reading backwards with the boxscores of the previous nights matches having first priority. It was typical for that period, Pippen did everything well but didn't get a lot of help, the Knicks overwhelmed Chicago to a victory with their well balanced offense and stifling half court defense. Little did we all know how this narrative would change in about three weeks.
After playing baseball during that time away, training for what took away a bit of his basketball athleticism as he entered his early 30s. This game served as a preview of the refined version that the remainder of the league would have to deal with accepting their eventual losses for the next three seasons.
MJ always spoke highly of the Garden and it's aura, frequently describing it as one of his favorite gyms to play in over the years. From his first visit as a professional in 1984 to the 25th of December two years later when he put up 50 and in the years following, an array of dazzling moves and moments from October/November to early June, year in and out.
The game itself, MJ established his new game early and often, from the elbow with his back to the basket; facing the basket from 20 feet away. His midrange from 1988-93 had progressively gotten deadlier. Not relying on it so much during those years due to his speed and freak athleticism, and in "taking what the defense gives him", adjusted accordingly.
At the end of the first quarter he already had 20. John Starks, the Knicks' starting shooting guard who always stepped up to the challenge of matching up against Mike, there wasn't much he could do on this night once the man we once referred to as 23 got into his rhythm. At the end of the first half, he had another 15, bringing him to 35 and no one in the building would be surprised to see 60 on the board.
There is a close call moment that occurs toward the end of the first half. MJ driving down the lane runs into Knicks captain Patrick Ewing mid-air, taking a spill afterward with his right leg in a position to take all the upper body weight and lots of momentum. Time appears to be suspended for a moment as this plays out in slow motion...before TNT runs the slo-mo replay a moment later. For just about anyone else, this could take them out for the season or their career. MJ immediately gets right back up, his legs apparently made out of iridium are back in its proper place and it's on to the next possession.
The fall, note the right leg.
The second half offered more of the same repertoire from no. 45 but with far more intensity from both squads, especially in the final 15 or so minutes. Jumpshots from 20 feet out fell with ease. Turnaround fadeaways barely grazed the net. Starks, guarding MJ as best as anyone could during a performance such as this was rendered helpless in one on one situations. The game appeared to come to MJ easier instead of the more physical schemes the Knicks were infamous for in previous seasons.
The fourth quarter picked up where the end of the third left off, with playoff like intensity, although the postseason was less than three weeks away. The implications were that there was a potential rematch down the road but ultimately fate would put those plans on hold. As the game wound down, the Garden crowd intensified. A scene that was normal and felt like was the continuation of
By the time 10pm hit on the east coast, Jordan and the Bulls had already walked off the stage with 55 points from no. 45, the W and nearly all of New York cursing the name of Canadian born Bulls 7 footer Bill Wennington. Not bad considering MJ put up a career high of 69 in Cleveland exactly five years prior. Knick legend Patrick Ewing had a solid day at the office of 36, 7 boards & 4 blocks.
RIP Anthony Mason.
Iridium (Ir, 77)
Meanwhile, further out into the boroughs of Shaolin and Medina (Brooklyn), songs from 'Return to the 36 Chambers' are bumping out of various jeeps, mobile cd players, walkmans and turntables. The Wu are gearing up for a banner summer and the next phase of the Wu world order. Something marvelous the world would soon never forget. Shallah Raekwon and the Genius are next up to check in, with Ghost not too far off behind in the lineup.
The author at Dirty's mural in Medina, 2019.
Springtime in NY 1995 Mixtape
Brooklyn Zoo/Snakes, Ol' Dirty Bastard
Unbelievable, Notorious B.I.G.
Release Yo Delf, Method Man feat. Blue Raspberry
Temperature's Rising, Mobb Deep feat. Crystal Johnson
Brooklyn Dodgers '95, Chubb Rock, Masta Ace, O.C & Jeru Da Damaja
Supa Star, Group Home
I Can't Wait, Redman
Nowhere To Run, Nowhere to Hide, Gravediggaz
So Many Tears, 2Pac
One Love, Nas
Fotos y Recuerdos, Selena
Baby Your Love, Changing Faces
Creep/Red Light Special, TLC
Be Happy, Mary J Blige
Sending My Love, Zhanè
At Your Best (You Are Love - Steppers Ball Remix), Aaliyah
Mood, Chantè Moore